IBM adopting Harmony for production Java systems

IBM has begun to use libraries from the Apache Harmony project in some of its production-level Java software, it was revealed at JavaOne last week. The move comes after years of IBM quietly contributing code to the Apache Harmony project, and it marked the first time IBM had publicly discussed its use of the software.
When Craig Hayman, vice president of WebSphere, took the stage at JavaOne, he was ostensibly talking about hosting Java application servers in the cloud and backing them up with what he called “extreme transaction processing” through creative caching. Then Hayman spoke about Apache Harmony.

“In our regular shipping offerings, like WebSphere CE and Lotus Notes, we're using many of the Harmony libraries inside our JVM, and inside our core code. We contribute a lot to the Harmony codebase,” said Hayman.

While Hayman and Ted Ellison, vice president of the Apache Software Foundation and an IBM senior technical staff member, demonstrated what they categorized as “not your father's runtime,” they were also quietly showing the world that there was, in fact, an open-source Java ready for production environments, and that it did not come from Sun Microsystems (in the form of the OpenJDK).

Since Harmony reached near-completion in 2007, Sun has refused to allow the Apache Foundation access to its Test Compatibility Kit, essentially relegating Apache Harmony to the status of “un-certified Java.”

When asked whether he felt that a lack of TCK access would harm Harmony's image, Hayman said, “I think that's somewhat in the hands of the customers and whether they care or not. If you were to take [Apache] Geronimo running on [Apache] Harmony, what do you care about: Harmony or Geronimo?”

If users only care about running Geronimo, he said, the certification levels of what's underneath don't really matter to the users, as long as they work.

Jeffrey Hammond, senior analyst for application development at Forrester Research, said that IBM's move to Harmony is similar to its move toward Eclipse.

“I would call it a risk mitigation move,” He said. He also said that a lack of certification from Sun shouldn't scare users away. “IBM has had its own JVM inside its products for years, and nobody has complained about that."

Hayman elaborated on IBM’s plans for Harmony. “First, we want to show people that we think it's ready for prime time. The second is we want to show off some of the tooling to get developers interested in using and contributing to Harmony.

"The community is at that tipping point where it's important for us to be more vocal about what we're doing. We're shining a light on the capabilities and how it can be used."

Miko Matsumura, vice president and chief strategist for Software AG, said at JavaOne: “The thing that's wonderful about how open Java is as an economic system is that it's a checks-and-balances system. IBM deserves to have some power, in the sense [that] you don't want Oracle to be the exclusive steward of Java. It's almost at the level of an Apache-style meritocracy."

BY Alex Handy

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